‘Avocet Watch' helps chicks fledge
Published Friday 20th July 12 in Council - news and information releases news
Avocet chicks have fledged again at Essex Wildlife Trust’s Two Tree Island nature reserve, thanks to the help of loyal volunteers.
The avocet is a striking coastal bird - a black and white wader with a long, up-curved black beak.
In Britain they breed mainly in the coastal areas of Essex, Suffolk , Norfolk and Kent.
Two Tree Island is one of fewer than 20 sites in which avocetsbreed in Essex (The Essex Bird Report 2009).
Sadly, avocets are targeted by egg thieves - but since 2006 Essex Wildlife Trust has successfully helped to protect the breeding avocet population on the island with the help of hundreds of volunteers who have taken part in a coordinated Egg Watch.
Breeding common terns, oystercatchers, redshanks and black-headed gulls are also watched over by the volunteers.
This year more than 80 volunteers helped with the rota of watches, which ran from 16 April to 15 June.
Last year many eggs were stolen by an egg thief but this spring, thanks to the volunteers, hatchings were noticeably up on last year's figures.
"Avocet Watch successfully ensured that a high number of Avocets eggs hatched this year," Louise Morris, Southend's Environmental Projects Manager, working in partnership with Essex Wildlife Trust and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, said.
"This was very encouraging news and could not have been achieved without the fantastic volunteers who devote their time to these wonderful birds."
It has, however, been a very difficult year for breeding birds, especially waders, due to the unprecedented rainfall which has led to the wettest April-June on record.
"We had about 22 pairs of avocets breed this year. It is hard to ascertain numbers of successful fledglings but I would estimate that it was only five to six," said Mark Bridges, Essex Wildlife Trust Warden at Two Tree Island.
A similar number of avocet chicks fledged last year on the island.
"The rain certainly had an effect on numbers. Nests were washed out and chicks died of hypothermia," added Mark.
Breeding numbers of black-headed gulls are increasing year on year on Two Tree Island and many are taking the prime nesting spots.
Unfortunately, just after Avocet Watch ended, a spaniel was allowed to run onto the lagoon at Two Tree Island and killed a number of adult and juvenile birds.
While black-headed gulls bore the brunt of the attack, Essex Wildlife Trust believes it is highly likely that avocets were also killed.
The avocet is a protected species. Avocets are protected as Schedule 1 birds under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb, kill or injure protected birds like avocets.
"It is extremely disappointing that birds have been killed when so many people have given up their time to take part in this important project to protect avocets eggs and chicks on Two Tree Island ," Louise said.
"Essex Wildlife Trust welcomes responsible owners and their dogs to Two Tree Island but if people cannot control their dogs we would ask them to put them on a lead or not to visit the reserve with their pets."
Despite the dog attack and the poor weather Avocet Watch has successfully helped the chicks of this iconic bird fledge yet again on Two Tree Island.
"Thank you to everyone who has helped to protect this important wader and its eggs for another year," Louise said.
"This amazing project is a real community effort between Essex Wildlife Trust, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, Essex Police, the local community and a whole range of partners.
"We really appreciate the effort put in and we are confident that we can look forward to a repeat of the Avocet Watch in 2013."